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There are a number of new companies in the sixth scale market, pushing on the older members of the club to do more, do better, do it cheaper. Hot Toys has moved into very large, very expensive licenses like Star Wars and Marvel, where their attention is completely tied up, reducing the opportunity for them to do the smaller, more niche licenses. They've also started to reach pricing in the $250 -$300 range, which can be well out of reach of even the die hard collector. This is absolutely the direction you would expect Hot Toys to go in, and they are doing quite well for themselves...but it opens the door for smaller companies to step in behind and take other licenses and other opportunities.
One of these newer companies is Star Ace, and their big property right now is Harry Potter. They've done an excellent job producing a pretty broad range of characters in a relatively short period of time, and maintained reasonable quality and pricing in the process. They also have some very exciting properties coming up, including 300, Underworld, and Hunger Games, and I'd be very surprised if we didn't see something new at SDCC next month.
Their latest release in the Harry Potter series is Albus Dumbledore. This is the original RIchard Harris version, who played Dumbledore in the first two films. Personally I like the Michael Gambon version better, but both are wonderful portrayals. This figure comes in two varieties - the regular, which will cost around $210, and the deluxe (with additional accessories, discussed in detail below) for $240. Both versions are available at multiple retailers. I'm looking at the deluxe tonight.
And I swear to God, if I only call him Gandalf once during this review I'll be doing great.
Packaging - ***1/2
The talented Eamon O'Donoghue did the work here, and he captured the solemn feel of Dumbledore and Hogwarts with this cover. It has the matte/gloss combo we've seen with others like Hagrid, and of course everything inside is completely collector friendly. No need to damage a thing in removing the figure, and even the protective wraps on things like the feet and hair are easy to remove.
Sculpting - ****
As always when looking at human portraits, I'm judging this sculpt on three aspects - realism, life-like, and accuracy. This is one of the combo head sculpts, with the hair rooted and the beard sculpted.
I used three stills to do my comparisons, along with my own fuzzy memories and initial impressions. This still is a great one, showing him with a slightly pleased expression. Here he is looking down his nose at you, and finally, in a stock marketing photo.
Let's talk about accuracy first. This looks very much like Harris as Dumbledore to me, no sign of Gambon - or Gandalf - anywhere. The cheeks, eyes, and nose all remind me of the character, and the wrinkles and aging look appropriate. The glasses are a permanent fixture, like what they did with Harry, and that makes complete sense. You can adjust them slightly, but I'd take care. As you can see, they ride pretty high on his nose, but Harris often wore them higher than Gambon did.
This is also a very realistic sculpt, perhaps Star Ace's best in this aspect so far. The older age of the character gives them more to work with in terms of skin texture, and they took advantage, creating a very human appearance.
Then there's life-like, perhaps the toughest aspect to nail. They have enough tightness in the face and muscles to avoid a mannequin look, without getting to extreme with the expression. Harris' Dumbledore wasn't a super expressive guy, emoting in quieter ways. They've given him a good neutral look, yet they haven't left him dazed or drugged.
If you hate the concept of rooted hair and a sculpted beard, you'll hate this figure at first glance. Personally, I think this does work, especially with figures like this, and I've been happy with the results on all three characters I've got that have utilized this approach - Saruman, Hagrid, and now Dumbledore. This bodes well for the upcoming Gandalf that Asmus is releasing very soon. And the final product with the mixed media is far superior to the original prototype which attempted to go rooted both ways.
He stands at just a hair over 12" tall, and will fit in great scale-wise with sixth scale figures from other companies, as well as the rest of the Star Ace Harry Potter line up.
There are minor nits - I think the cheeks are a little too pronounced, and perhaps the tip of the nose could be a bit more accurate - but overall it's one of Star Ace's best jobs, surpassed only by their young Hermione.
Paint - ***
While I'm loving the sculpt, the paint isn't quite there yet.
Of course, the eyes look terrific, and the work on the sculpted beard flows with the hair reasonably well. One of the advantages with this combo is the natural differences that tend to exist between the hair on your head and the hair on your face. Beards are naturally a little darker, if for no other reason than the play of light, and using a wash to add the darker shadows works well here.
But the same wash effect on the face isn't as good. They are using it to highlight the sculpted details, but it ends up making his face look dirty. There's a subtlety to it when a face paint is done to perfection, but here the wash is too heavy handed.
Articulation - ***
The underlying Star Ace body has all the articulation you expect with a modern day sixth scale figure, although some of the joints work a bit better than others.
Fortunately, Dumbledore is not a ninja. The body can take some decent poses with the wand, as well as the other accessories, but deep stances and extreme action aren't really warranted.
The neck works well, even with the soft rubber beard. You can get quite a bit of lean and tilt, although turning the head a lot or moving it too far forward are more restricted. The upper body works well, but I did have issues with getting the legs to maintain stances. Thanks to the long robes, you can't see that the legs were less natural and flowing in most of these poses, and the problem really lies with the boots. They are sculpted from a harder plastic, and are calf height, making the ankles quite useless. The sculpt also pushes the center of balance backward on the figure, making it tough to get a natural look to the leg poses. Thank goodness for those robes!
The figure has multiple hands, and these swap easily and cleanly with no fear of breakage.
Accessories - ***1/2
I'm grading the deluxe figure here, which has several additional accessories. Let's start with the items that both versions have in common.
Both figures have a total of five hands: he comes wearing a pair of relaxed pose hands, and can swap in a wand gripping right, a cup gripping left, and a slightly wider grip right for various other items, like the sword. There's no extra wrist pegs, but I doubt anyone will need them.
Of course, he comes with his wand, and it's THE wand. The sculpt looks great, scale is excellent, and he can easily hold it in the right hand provided.
The Sword of Godric Gryffindor is also included, made entirely of plastic. While the sculpt on the hilt is fairly detailed, including the stone, it is the one accessory that disappointed me. It feels a tad cheap compared to the others and to the market standard.
Dumbledore also has his cup, which was featured at various times in the films. He can easily hold it, and the scale is about perfect. Sculpting is good too, and it includes the small stone.
Perhaps the coolest of the regular release accessories is the small stone base with a bright LED light. A small carved support can hold the crystal ball over the light, illuminating it with an eerie glow, similar to one of the movie posters. The support is three trumpeting elephants, painted in bronze. The overall effect is quite good, and I'll delve into the specifics of the light up feature in the specific category below.
Finally, both figures include a basic black waist grabber display stand, with his name on it. Nothing particularly fancy, but useful considering the issues with the legs and boots.
The deluxe version includes four more extras. There were two that were quite obvious - Fawkes and his large perch - and two that were not. Let's start with the latter.
One of the extra hands includes two rings, which I mistakenly assumed were sculpted in place. They are not, and can be removed and replaced on any of the hands where appropriate. In fact, I removed the silver ring from the pinky of the gripping left, and mistakenly replaced it on the ring finger later. You'll notice the swap in some of the photos. The ring sculpts and paint work are nice, but don't get too excited - neither of these is the horcrux, aka Marvolo Gaunt's ring. While the one does have a black stone, it's a silver ring, not gold.
Being able to remove them from the one hand is also a good thing for the purists. I gotta tell you, I don't remember Harris' Dumbledore ever wearing any rings. Gambon? Yes. Harris? No. Things that make you go hmmm...
The much more obvious extra with the deluxe version is Fawkes and his large, standing perch. The perch is very sturdy, and supports the large
Fawkes easily. They come as separate pieces, and putting Fawkes on the perch is easy enough. The sculpt and paint work on Fawkes is good, although I
would have liked to see his top
feathers fluffed up just a bit more.
Light Feature - ***1/2
The small rock base supplied has a very bright - very bright! - LED inside. You have to supply two CR2016 batteries, but opening the compartment is a simple turn. Pop the batteries back in, and you turn the cover to close it, then turn it further to turn on the light. Do NOT be staring at the light when you do this. As I said it is VERY bright!
There is a fair amount of light that leaks through and around the elephant support, but the ball does illuminate quite nicely even in a lit room. It is very easy to work with as well, a huge improvement over the cumbersome light features we've seen recently from Hot Toys.
Outfit - ***1/2
Harris' Dumbledore was a bit more colorful in his style, and this outfit is a difficult one to capture well. Lots of patterns, lots of variation, yet done in a subtle manner. Star Ace has done an excellent job with it, using high quality materials and lots of attention to detail.
The costume consists of boots, satin pants, a padded undershirt, an inner satin robe with belt, and an outer heavy velvet robe. Oh, and let's not forget that hat!
I've already discussed the fairly restrictive boots, but the sculpt and paint are decent. You won't see them much, since the long inner robes fall all the way to the floor.
The pants and inner robes are made from the same material, a very shiny, slick, satin like cloth. The dark color looks great, and the embroidery and patterns are beautiful. The robes closes in front tightly with Velcro, which is very thin but quite strong. There is a separate belt that fits around the waist, but is largely ornamental.
The thick outer robes flow perfectly, hanging from his shoulders and arms in a natural way. The patterns aren't quite as complex as what was seen on screen, but considering the scale, they've done an admirable job recreating the concept.
Under all these layers is a padded shirt. It isn't intended to fatten him up, but smooth out the torso to provide a cleaner look. It works well, but can be removed if you prefer.
Lastly, there's the wizardly hat. While the Gambon Dumbledore tended to wear less flashy clothes, I have to say I always preferred his hat to this one. It is well made, but tends to be a little thick, since it's created from the same material as the heavy robe. You might think it looks silly, but in reality it looks very much like it did on screen...which was kinda silly as well. You can get it higher and lower on his forehead, and tilt it a bit side to side, thus creating a look that's the most appealing to you. For example, while he tends to wear it pretty far back on his forehead in the film, I preferred it a little lower on the figure. Your mileage will most definitely vary.
Fun Factor - ***1/2
While the ankles and legs can be a little difficult to work with, the rooted hair and multiple accessories make it possible to create quite a few different looks for Dumbledore. Considering all the display potential with various other characters that they have already produced, like Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, and Snape, this figure should provide hours of enjoyment.
Value - **
This deluxe version is $240, quite a price tag for a Star Ace release. However, it's important to note that the regular is $210, much more in line with expectations. I'd like to see them stay around $200, but that extra ten bucks is understandable considering the light feature, rooted hair, and complex costume. If I were grading the regular, I'd go with an average rating of **1/2 here.
I dropped them a half star off average because I'm not sure Fawkes can really pull $30, even with the perch. Of course, there's also the two
small rings...but $30 is a pretty hefty chunk of change.
Things to Watch Out For -
Don't look into the light! Seriously, it's bright. Otherwise, you should be good to go.
Overall - ***1/2
I continue to be impressed by Star Ace and their desire to produce the best quality at a reasonable (relatively speaking) price. While this guy is a bit more expensive than their standard release, Dumbledore does have some nice extras, a complex costume, rooted hair, AND a light feature, making the cost a bit easier to take.
He's also a critical character, one that no Harry Potter display can be without. We have a couple other variants already scheduled (the older Hermione looks fantastic), as well as a Malfoy. I'm hoping Star Ace can keep this line humming along long enough to give us at least a Gambon Dumbledore and a Professor McGonagall. Those two remain necessary...but I wouldn't turn down a Lucius Malfoy, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, or Professor Lockhart, and you have to squeeze a Dobby in as an accessory...and please, please, PLEASE, do a Bellatrix Lestrange! I can't wait to see what SDCC holds for this line.
Look at there...I think I made it all the way through without calling him Gandalf.
Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - ****
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - ***1/2
Light Feature - ***
Outfit - ****
Fun Factor - ***
Value - **
Overall - ***1/2
Where to Buy
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Star Ace has been cranking out the high quality Harry Potter sixth scale figures, and the most recent was Hagrid. Before that, we had Snape, Tri-Wizard Harry, the young Hermione, young Harry and Ron, Voldemort, Sirius Black, Mad Eye Moody, Sirius in his Prison Garb, and Ron and Harry in their 'casual' clothes.
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